Many years ago prior to becoming a mentor and consultant, I worked in financial services. We were re-tendering for a very large contract worth tens of millions per annum over at least a four-year period. The global procurement head of the client company entered the picture as negotiations were getting serious. He was at once the most fastidious, intellectually rigorous and toughest negotiator I had encountered to that point in my career. As tough as he was though, he was very fair.
Interestingly, he was also incredibly entrepreneurial, creative and had a real ability to look at better ways of doing things – perhaps not the stereotypical procurement type. To cut a long story short we were successful in our bid after several months of back and forth (and painstaking) negotiations.
After a few months had passed, I caught up with him for a celebratory lunch to toast to the success of the newly implemented contract. I asked him where he got such a huge drive, energy and creative spark from. He laughed and said “if you must know, it’s because I don’t have staff reporting to me anymore. I used to manage a team of eight procurement staff and I hated it. I was constantly bogged down in people issues and was spending much less time on doing what I enjoyed most – doing a good deal. Being relieved of staff freed me up to be much more creative and do what I enjoy doing most. It was the best thing that happened to me in my career!”
I think there are some real lessons in there. Many people would perhaps be better off following a similar path. Many managers feel similarly bogged down, jaded, and distracted by staff issues. How much is the people side preventing you from doing what you do best?
We do need better, more capable leaders. Don’t get me wrong. There are others amongst us however that would be better at focussing on one or two specific areas that they truly love and excel at. Would you enjoy your role more and excel more if you were relieved of your staff management duties? Is your ego too tied to the ‘status’ of managing staff? Are you adding any real value as a direct manager of people?
My friend in the earlier example ended up achieving far more and earning far more in the long run because he was freed up to truly shine in the area he loved most. Would this be applicable for you too?